BlogWalk Chicago Reflections

I spent an excellent day Saturday with both old and new blogging friends at BlogWalk Chicago. Jack Vinson and AKMA have good overview posts and more can be found at BlogWalk TopicExchange and Technorati tag:BlogWalk. With some luck I will find some time to process much of the excellent conversation and output of the day.

One conversation thread that wound in and out of the day was the relation of blogs and social
software to large organizations. Tom Sherman struggled with this discussion and I thought it worth taking a few moments to try and articulate my perspective.One reality for most of us is that we can expect to spend a substantial portion of our time in and around large organizations. I believe they will be part of our work landscape for some time to come. The nature of the work expected of many of us is evolving rapidly. It’s more fluid and less well-defined. Job descriptions, when they are available, don’t provide a lot of guidance.

At the same time the mythology around organizations and work is that there should
be clear guidelines around what is expected of us. I know that I struggle with these uncertainties routinely. Most of the day to day work that leads up to knowledge products and deliverables is fundamentally invisible. The bits that make up email and draft documents and spreadsheet models are hidden and shared only among a handful of people until they are completed. More than anything else, what blogs and social software do is make it drop dead simple to make the conduct of knowledge work visible. To me this is of fundamental importance. Knowledge work depends on our ability to learn and improve as we go. That depends on being able to see what is going on and social software makes that feasible.

Organizations struggle with the notion that they need to learn. Too often, learning is something that someone else in the organization needs to do. Moreover, real learning (as opposed to what passes for learning in too many training environments) is a social activity. These tools will be
central to creating the environment in which necessary learning can take place. Today, that learning activity is almost exclusively the province of those who’ve retained their natural curiosity and inquisitiveness in spite of eduational and organizational systems that work overtime to suppress these natural instincts. The work that needs to be done will force the rest of us to adapt as well. Seems to me that working out this transition presents some interesting work to be done inside organizations.

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